Citizen journalism is becoming more prevalent than ever. Take a look at Karen Klein, bus monitor from upstate New York. Klein lived in the small town of Greece and road the Middle School bus every day.
Middle School students teased and traumatized her every day saying that she had no family (her son committed suicide and her husband passed away) and that she looked like a “troll.” She was victimized by these students and the harassment was even videotapped. This video was later put up on YouTube and had more than 7 million views.
As a result, a group of citizens decided to give Klein a vacation of a lifetime. They put her story on Indigogo.com and tried to raise $5,000. Instead, they raised more than $650,000 for her with more than 20 days left to raise the necessary funds. At the time of this writing, nearly 30,000 people funded her vacation (and I think retirement as well).
The way Indigogo works (as does Kickstarter) is, if you are trying to raise money to start up a business or raise money for something, you can simply go on these “crowdsourcing” sites and create a campaign. If you raise the money, the money belongs to you less the fees associated with the online software. If you don’t raise the money you set out to, you can pay more to the software company or you lose it.
Mustache Brewing Company is an example of a start up company that used Kickstarter to raise their initial investments. When the banks turned them down to establish a Long Island brewing company, the Hicksville couple decided to give Kickstarter a try. They raised more than the $25,000 they set up to raise. This helped them put down their initial investment to lease space for their brewery.
Obviously, you have to pay taxes on the money you raise. You also need to give something to the recipient in return for the donation. This could be a certificate, tee-shirt or official coffee mug. There are some people who donated to Klein who want to petition that she not be charged income tax on the money, but that doesn’t really seem right, does it?
The students who bullied Klein will be “dealt with in September” when they return to school. In the meantime, Klein walks away with more than a half million dollars for a vacation of a lifetime and therapy sessions.
Hilary JM Topper, MPA is President and CEO of HJMT Public Relations, Inc. She is an active blogger on HilaryTopper.com and has a radio show on Blogtalk Radio. Her firm also has a blog on social media marketing topics on www.hjmt.com. She is also President and Founder of the Social Media Association.